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Climate change causes increased migration flows within national borders

16 May 2024
Migration flows will increase due to climate change, according to research by environmental economist Sem Duijndam. Flood risks will increase sharply in the coming century due to sea level rise. Many millions of people worldwide will be affected by this, as floods cause major damage to homes, agriculture and general safety.

The research shows that flood risks will mainly cause migration flows within national borders, rather than internationally. Modelling studies show that tens of millions of people could migrate from coastal areas alone by the end of this century due to increased flood risk. Duijndam examined six different countries: Vietnam, the Netherlands, France, Argentina, Mozambique and the United States.

Knowledge and policy

With his research, Duijndam tried to better understand which factors influence migration in different countries worldwide. These insights are critical for policymaking on migration under climate change, improving migration forecasts, and just climate policies. Migration is a major theme in politics at the moment.

More factors influence migration

However, the relationship between flood risk and migration is not self-evident. Many other factors besides natural disaster risk are expected to influence migration, and this varies across country contexts. “For example, when people raise their houses to protect them from flooding, they are much less likely to migrate. In addition, we see that the expected costs of migration and people's income play a much larger role in the decision to migrate in lower income countries than in higher income countries. This reflects major financial inequality in making migration choices," Duijndam explains.

Influence of governments

With this research, governments can better manage migration, because it is now clear which factors influence migration. In this way, governments can financially encourage households to take flood measures themselves. But there are also major differences in the determining elements of migration between countries, which governments must take into account. An effective approach in one country is therefore not necessarily effective in another.

Contact the VU Press Office